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July 28, 2014

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Life as Uncle Scar in The Lion King — and Scar’s new baby

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Joan Marcus

Thom Sesma as Scar in Disney’s The Lion King at Mandalay Bay.

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Made up as "The Lion King" character Scar, Michael Hollick meets his first son for the first time.

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Michael Hollick as he looked to his newborn son, Max Ming Hollick, upon delivery.

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Angela, Max and Michael Hollick -- with Daddy having shed his stage look.

By Thom Sesna, guest columnist

Thom Sesma here. I know you’re thinking, “Just who is Thom Sesma, and why is he on my computer screen?” Well, I am one of the principal actors in a little show currently playing at Mandalay Bay, just about the most glorious production of the most glorious musical ever -- Disney’s The Lion King.

And that question -- “Who is Thom Sesma?” -- is an apt one to start with because each night as I leave the theater, I could wear a neon sign that flashes “I’m Thom Sesma, and I just played Scar!!!” and no one would take a second look.

The fact that this is Las Vegas, and you tend to see some pretty strange things on a daily basis, doesn’t ease the sting to the ego. But it’s probably a good thing, too, because part of the fabulous theatrics of The Lion King is that dream-like world of an African savannah that is re-created each night by an army of expert backstage technicians and artists the paying public doesn’t get to see. All that “recognizable” stuff -- from headaches to hot weather and, yes, even actors’ egos -- is set aside to make way for onstage magic.

And what is some of that magic? How about a gigantic rock that seems to spring from the earth and tower over a singing grassland that waves in a breeze; or stampeding wildebeests heading directly for the second tier of seats in the theater; and (maybe most memorably for some of the tots in the audience) a full-size elephant that practically dances down the aisles.

And then there are the costumes: zebras, giraffes, a great African hornbill and, oh yeah, those wildebeests. There’s even a lion or two, and that brings me back to not being recognized.

An important part of Scar is the intricately designed makeup that transforms this dashing, handsome and mature-but-youthful-looking actor (I’m banking on you not recognizing me in person) into the crooked, bitter and evil villain of The Lion King.

That means wearing what feels like pounds of makeup. The total facial transformation takes an average of 45 minutes. Add to that a costume that weighs in at 40-plus pounds, and some serious state-secret stuff that makes the Scar mask work, and you have … ta-da … Uncle Scar!

And I wonder why I’m not recognized? I suppose that I could leave the theater in my makeup, right? But who’d want to do that? Unless of course there was an emergency …

But I’m sure by now you’ve all heard about the particular emergency that occurred just a short time ago. To recap: I was off for a couple of sick days. The new Scar understudy, the brilliant Michael Hollick, was subbing for me, sitting in the makeup chair as Scar’s final touches were brushed on when a message was delivered -- his wife, who was just short of eight months’ pregnant, had gone into labor, seven weeks early. The message from the missus continued -- “labor looked to be a long one, do the show and then come to the hospital.”

Well, wouldn’t you know, life had other plans, and the labor was unusually fast. Michael got the message in the middle of the show -- “come as soon as possible.” An hour later, a blissfully relieved Michael welcomed Maxwell Ming “Ziggy” Hollick into the world.

One little detail: Michael raced over the second he changed out of his Scar costume. Costume. Not makeup. Little Ziggy came out, and the first thing in this world he saw was, you guessed it, Scar, from the most glorious The Lion King ever.

So my question is, where does Michael get a neon sign that says, “No! Really! I’m your father! I just played Scar that night!”

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.